Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tuba Christmas 2009

Today marks the second Tuba Christmas that I participated in after not playing a baritone (well, it was a euphonium this time) for 40 years. I borrowed one from Southwestern and practiced in the breezeway between the garage and the house to minimize the noise for Phil and the neighbors!

I had my debut last Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving) in Blue Ridge, GA where we had spent our 10th Thanksgiving since acquiring our mountain retreat cabin.

The weather was bitterly cold and windy in Texas compared with last week's warm and sunny weather in Georgia. Thanks to Phil, Susannah and Suze's Lhaso Apso, Duncan for coming to both concerts!

I checked my diary and see that we went to a Tuba Christmas on December 21, 1975 at Rockefeller Center. In looking this up I found December 12, 1975 quote from Gwyneth, who was in Montessori school, to Phil:
"On Monday I have dancing; Tuesday is cub scout meeting at Carolyn's; Wednesday I have singing; Thursday I have dancing; Friday Mommy comes; Saturday Emergency is on; and Sunday we take Mommy to the train.
Everybody doesn't have an exciting life like I have."

Monday, November 2, 2009

2009-11-1 Hong Kong to home

We tried looking for the geocache we were unable to find but still couldn’t find the one by the ferry building. We got breakfast at the Starbucks in the cultural center and sat on the steps watching a Tai Chi class.

Then we walked along the Tsim Sha Tsui water front promenade which included a parade of Hong Kong movie star hand prints in the paving stones. We also walked through the 1881 shopping area which was an old marine police headquarter transformed into high end shops and restaurants.

We finished our packing and checked out of the hotel but stored our bags.

We tried to go gift shopping but were overwhelmed by too expensive stuff and men asking Phil if he wanted a tailor made suit. We gave up and took a taxi to the train station and were able to check into the airline at the train station before going to the airport. We didn’t have to lug our bags to the airport.

We spent the rest of our Hong Kong money at the airport and had lunch in the first class lounge. It was very nce.

The Cathay Pacific plane was wonderful. Out first class pods were decorated with fresh flowers. The food was unbelievable. The service was over the top. Phil and I were able to sit side by side in his seat with plenty of room. For dinner I sat in the chair in the front of his pod and they expanded the tray to make a rather large table which they covered with a linen cloth. First course caviar, then Caesar salad. I had veal and Phil had port. He had a cheese course and then dessert.

I let them make up my pod into a bed. Phil stayed in his pod and tried to watch a movie, but kept dozing. When I woke up it was 30 minutes before landing in San Francisco. We had to walk with our luggage a very long way before re-checking it. We had almost 4 hours to sit in the admiral’s club before taking off for LA. I got off the plane but Phil stayed on before it took off for Austin.

Another meal on the plane to Austin and when we landed our luggage was the first off. We got to the Fast Park bus and quickly to our ar. When we got home we discovered that the bus driver ahd given us the wrong bag. We called Fast Park and he said we could get ours right away or in the morning. There was nothing we needed and we were tired so we elected to wait.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hong Kong

We awoke rather early and asked at the desk for an ATM. There was one just across the street near where we had entered the hotel from the bus. Next to it was another Starbucks where we got coffee and an egg white sandwich for breakfast which we ate in our room.

We went out to find a geocache and figure out the ferries to Hong Kong. After finding the cache, we took the GPS back to our room and set off for Victoria Peak. We could ride the Star Ferry for free because we are senior citizens. On the Hong Kong side we walked around forever trying to find where to buy an “Octopus card” which allowed us to ride all the mass transit in Hong Kong once we loaded it with money. It was hot and we couldn’t understand the people very well, but eventually went to a mall where the train station was, and got our cards. Then back to near the ferry landing to get a bus to the Peak Tram which took us to the top of the mountain where there were tons of shops and a viewing place. I had read about a trail at the top. Our biggest problem was locating the i. It wasn’t marked, and we felt like idiots when we realized it was a tram car sitting in the middle of the plaza.

The nice people in the information tram told us how to find the trail and gave us a map. The paved path took us all around the mountain for fabulous views and interesting signs about the flora, fauna and history. Since it was a Sunday where were lots of people out for a stroll. It was quite hot when we got back to the cable car plaza. We ate lunch at MacDonalds with a fabulous view. Then we found some gourmet groceries at the shopping on the top of the mountain and got our favorite picnic food of bread, cheese and wine to go with the fruit that had been supplied in our hotel room.

After taking the Tram back down to the bus and then the ferry, we dropped our purchases in the room and headed up to yet another park and walked along the shopping street and into the Temple Street night market which was for the locals. We were amazed by all the stores selling expensive watches, purses and electronics.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Beijing to Hong Kong

Phil packed while I futzed with the computer. Then I packed, and we had breakfast. We read and made sure we had all the info we needed before the trip. Shanliang rang the bell about 10 until 10 and we were off. Except he had left the change from the bill on the counter and had to go back. The driver even gave us a gift of a teapot.

We were surprised that there were no news shops in the departure area. Only expensive places where we managed to spend almost all of our Mainland China money.

Air China gave us lunch (pork rice) and an ice cream ball thing covered in a gummy sugar coating.

We got to the Hong Kong airport and couldn’t make the machine take our money for train tickets, so we stood in line and somehow got a ticket which was $20 HK cheaper than had we bought them at the machine. The train to free hotel express bus worked great.

I had trouble checking in because I did not have a voucher. The clerk had me go back in the office with her where I went through my email and printed our the message from Orbitz. It was not exactly what she wanted but it worked. Our room was an upgrade to a full harbor view. The hotel, the YMCA Salisbury, was under massive construction in its lobby area as was the surrounding street area. However, our room was perfect with a phenomenal view.

We unpacked and went across the street to the Cultural Center where we got Starbucks coffee and split a curry beef pie sandwich. We hurried to the waterfront for the Symphony of Lights show where the harbor side buildings in both Kowloon and Hong Kong had a light show orchestrated to music. It was really cool.

As it was Halloween, lots of people were dressed in costumes and people brought their kids to be photographed near a host of illuminated figures set up in the area to celebrate the East Asia games that will be in Hong Kong in December.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Temple of Heaven Beijing

Our final touring day took us south east to the Temple of Heaven. The weather had turned cold and threatened rain, but we had a grand time watching all the people in the park. Groups of older adults were dancing for exercising, playing games with balls, singing with a band, playing dominoes and cards. We toured the temple and then looked for a geocache on the grounds. It was good I had re-looked this one up since it was moved just the day before!

Then we walked to King of Old Beijing noodle Restaurant but Shanliang didn’t know where it was, so we had to call the driver. Then we went to the Hong Qiao Pearl Market where Jane Prey had told us to go. We went to Sharon’s Store and bought pearl necklaces. Avoiding the persistent salespeople in the market while we waited to have the pearls strung and clasps put on was nerve wracking. We didn’t buy anything else, although we certainly should have. Since nothing was priced it ws too much work!

We decided not to do anything else. We think Shanliang was happy to have the day off. We did walk for wine and snacks and then had a light supper of beef and mushrooms with rice and broccoli for supper. Once again the only beverage was hot water.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beijing (The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square)

Breakfast and the driver picked us up at nine to go to the Forbidden City. We came in from the north and all the signs assume you’ve come from the other way. However, we missed most of the crowds and it was absolutely peaceful and beautiful in the Empress' Gardens. Once again we found the virtual cache near the temple of enlightenment. We had to take a picture of a stone. I was astounded by how large the compound was. When we exit through the huge throngs of tour groups we were across the street from Tienanmen Square. We crossed under the highway and came up in the squire. There were two of the biggest TV’s I ever saw celebrating the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. We had our picture taken in front of the monument near Mao’s tomb as part of a geocache. There was a huge queue for te mausoleum but we didn’t want to wait. The square now is decorated with red pillars for each of the 50 some odd ethnic groups that make up China.

Then we were off to Wangfujing Street, a big shopping street, where we took pictures of each other sitting in a rickshaw as part of yet another cache. Then Shanliang took us to the “most famous” roasted duck restaurant, Quanjude, where we ate the 1,4803,657th duck they have served. The duck came with a certificate number!

Phil and I shared less than half the duck which was carved and then we made little burritos like wraps as we ate it. Shanliang ate the rest of the duck – probably ¾ of the wholoe thing!

Meanwhile back to the hotel. As if we hadn’t walked far enough, we set off for a geocache in a park about 1.3 miles away off Huangsi street. It was a gorgeous park , Liuyan Park, filled with willows. It cost us 1 yuan to get in and we found the hidden cache but there was a guy playing a video game right near us. Hope he didn’t see. It was dark on the way back and we walked on the side with lots of construction so we ended up in the street with the bicycles for much of the way. We stopped at the store for wine, snacks and Pepsi for Phil.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Beijing (excursion to Badaling and the Great Wall)

Up early to go to the Great Wall. It was a little over an hour’s ride to Badaling. When we got there, it had clouded over and was very cold. Our driver thought we would want to take the cable car up, but we convinced Shanliang that we preferred to walk. I wanted Starbucks coffee, from the shop right by the wall. We also convinced him to go left when he preferred right, because the geocache said to go left. Turns out the crowd was much less to the left. The sun came out and it was a beautiful day. But the walk was STEEP! We couldn’t find the monument for the cache. They moved it for the Olympics and I misunderstood what had happened so Phil and Shanliang did a lot of dangerous bushwacking around the porta potties. On the way up we bought a pounded slate artwork of the wall from the artist. On the way down, Shanliang reimbursed us the amount of my visa and Phil bought himself a baseball cap and a t-shirt.

When we got back to Beijing, Shanliang wanted to take us out for roasted duck. Our timing was just wrong. We stopped at about 5 different places and the driver and Shanliang gave up and went to a hot pot place that was both fun and good. We boiled our food – thin sliced beef and mutton and veggies in broth. Phil and the driver had the spicy one and Shanliang and I had mild. Once again no dinner for us.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beijing -- Peking University and Summer Palace

Shanliang must have accompanied Rich to the airport very early. We had breakfast in the hotel – donut like sweet rolls, cucumber and sprout salad, sticky buns and warm real milk.

Then it was off to Peking University for my talk. Only two professors and one student came. A lot of money and work for that! I did meet a female prof who had to teach. One student, Mr. Wang, came as did the representative from i-Group who brought brochures about ACM. Despite the small gathering, I think the talk was a success.

Ming took us to observe a class on CS theory and then on a walking tour which included seeing the site of the 2008 Olympic table tennis games. We had lunch at the Peking University Hotel. It was very good. We had crunchy pork spareribs, duck, a whole fish and the assorted veggies. Afterwards we walked about the entire campus which was very park-like. I gathered it was the location of the old summer palace of the emperor.

Back to our hotel to change and then Shanliang and the driver took us to the Summer Palace. We walked up and up to get to the temple at the top. It is called Longevity Hill. The dirt that was dug to put in a lake made the hill.

We then scrambled to find a geocache hidden among rocks in the woods below. Phil spotted it and then let Shanliang find it, too.

We walked about the grounds and saw an old guy on an outcropping play an instrument while a girl sang with the accompanying loudspeaker. We walked up to a temple of a god with lots of arms and then took the covered long walk (Phil says there were 14,000 paintings on it) to another park gate where we were met by the driver.

Phil and I explored the area by walking toward a geocache and stopping a little supermarket where we bought a bottle of Great Wall wine. We had a drink of it with leftover airline snacks before dinner. We just had rice and soup for dinner because we were full from lunch.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chengdu to Beijing

We had to leave very early, being in the lobby at 7am. Ming and Shanliang accompanied Rich and us to the airport and took the same plane. We had breakfast at the airport. Shanliang ordered spaghetti and it was served with Tabasco and Kraft Parmesan. Rich ordered the Japanese dish. The rest of us just had coffee.

I worked a bit on the changes that Ming wanted me to make to my talk for her department at Peking University. On the plane, we were served a light meal – tuna and cucumber sandwich, I think.

The Beijing airport was beautiful. We were met by a driver who took us to our hotel. Boy was I wrong about it. It was not the Jinma but the GaoJiaoJinMa, a small hotel run for the Higher Education Press with few of the standard hotel amenities. The carpet had not been swept before our arrival so I found a maid and had her vacuum it.

At Shanliang and Ming’s suggestion, Phil and I stayed in our room while Shanliang took Rich to the Forbidden City and out for Peking Duck. Phil and I had dinner in the hotel restaurant.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Chengdu trip to Du Jiang Yan

We had breakfast with the conference again. Shanliang called to say the van that was to take us to Du Jiang Yan had something wrong so we would leave later than planned. Rich LeBlanc, Phil and I joined Shanliang and our driver, a tiny man who clearly had no idea about the area. He had to ask passers-by for directions to even leave Chengdu. Because of the late start, it seems we wouldn’t get to see the pandas. I was disappointed by Rich didn’t really want to go see them.

When we got closer to Du Jiang Yan we saw more and more evidence of the earthquake that hit this area in 2008. We couldn’t follow the signs, and again the driver had to keep asking how to get to the historical site of an irrigation and flood control project that was build in 200 BCE. We parked in a muddy lot and walked to the site entrance and waited while Shanliang bought tickets for us. The site is a world heritage site and the gardens were quite lovely. I had made first experience with a toilet-paper-less non-western Chinese commode. We walked to the river walk where we could see evidence of the early construction. We had to cross a swinging suspension bridge that kids made worse than it was. I really felt wobbly when we got off. We walked the length of an island and then decided to take the path back on the opposite shore which involved a lot of climbing. However, we had great views and went to several small temples. The damage from the earthquake was quite evident.

At the end of the trail we came to the Temple of the TownGods which was full of 6 fanciful characters and had a holy water pool at the exit. We walked through the old town meet our driver. Shanliang said the restaurants near the river wouldn’t be “healthy” and thye would cheat the tourists, so we drove toward Chengdu and stopped at one that he thought would be ok. We had the ever present lazy Susan banquet and this time with a large steamer of rice. It was Sichuan after all and the food was very hot. The restaurant was filled with small parties in the rooms off the main eating area. In one the toasts were going fast and furious and a guy got roaring drunk. He could barely stand when we left. As we exited the restaurant we saw employees squatting down doing the dishes outside with a garden hose!

Leaving the town was exciting – since the roads had been destroyed and not all repaired we went in back streets and followed a cab to get out through muddy pavement-less alleys. Turns out is was a dead end. The cab was merely going for gas!

Long Zhang had requested that Rich and I meet with him and Ming at dinner to talk about cooperation with the conference and answer questions about curriculum with other educators. It was a buffet like the first night.

We began our packing to leave. Phil packed first so he could help me. This was very smooth.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chengdu Conference -UFCFCS

When we walk the circuitous route from the elevators to the conference venue we pass a delightful statue of a woman knitting, a boy playing a video game on a laptop and a man reading a paper. There was also one of a girl that reminded us of Chloe.

Breakfast was an interesting mix of foods. Our host ate corn on the cob with chopsticks!

We went to the conference opening where I sat in a fancy chair with my name in front of me. Phil sat behind me in the audience, We went for photos where the whole conference was photographed.

Then Rich Leblanc gave his presentation on CS2008 and I gave mine.

We went to the lunch for the speakers and dignitaries at an absolutely amazing tea room. The decoration was of old Sichuan and the food superb. This was our first introduction to the banquet toasts. The servers pour thimble sized glasses of wine and then someone makes a toast. This goes on and on. You don’t have to drink if you are not included in the toast.

After dinner we went to the old town of Chengdu and walked the "Wide Street" and the "Narrow Street". A young Chinese woman asked to have her photo taken with Rich and me in front of the Starbucks!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hong Kong to Chengdu

In the morning when Phil took a shower, he was surprised by the angle of the shower head and managed to soak yet another shirt! I ironed that one partially dry. It took us forever to re-pack and be on our way to the “real” China.

I thought Phil looked rather dashing in his new clothes for our trip to Chengdu. We had breakfast in the Hong Kong airport – eggs, ham, roll and coffee for about $3 US dollars each! I didn’t get wanded in security in Hong Kong, a rare occasion. But they sure do make us fill out a lot of forms.

I worked on note for my talk on the flight to Chengdu. We were the only American on board a full flight and Phil was the only bald man. They served lunch –some kind of fish rice, an English style tuna salad and unripe melon but good Chinese tea.

Going through immigration and customs in Chengdu was really fast. All the officials wore both masks and gloves to handle our documents. We got our bags and were met by Shanliang from the Chinese ministry of higher education press, who had come from Beijing about an hour before us but waited to escort us to the hotel. It was a long, ride into the center of town. As we got closer to the center the traffic was dizzying – bikes, motorized bikes, 3 wheeled cars, pedestrians and no clear indication of the rules of right of way. The hotel entrance is beautiful, as is the hotel (the California Garden Hotel), although slightly worn.

We didn’t really have time to unpack, although I couldn’t find my black slacks and tried to call the Novotel. It took several attempts to discover why my phone wouldn’t work. The international calling numbers are different. Instead of + followed by the country code as it had been for me all over the world including Hong Kong, the Chinese provider needs 00 then the country code, Bottom line was my slacks weren’t there, but I had left some medicine.

Shanliang and Ming (our host from Peking University) took Rich LeBlanc, Phil and me in two cabs to the Jin Sha Museum. It was a fabulous place. In 2003, a huge archaeological site was found here including artifacts from the Shang Dynasty about 1600 BC. They found piles of elephant tusks, gold, jade, all for ritual use indicating the site had been a temple through many eras. Then next door they had recreations of the site as it had looked, and actual relics artfully displayed.
Potted plants

I was fascinated by the potted plant displays only to discover them everywhere in public places in Chengdu.

Phil decided to use his bed as a dresser!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Georgetown to Hong Kong

October 21 Georgetown – over the Pacific.

Up early and off to the airport for our 9:35 flight to DFW. First class doesn’t make much difference on that leg but what a difference on the next one!
At the DFW Admirals Club we had pre-flight mimosas even though it was slightly before noon.

The flight from DFW was on a 777 on which Phil and I had side-by-side “pods”. The chairs did everything – swiveled to a desk, reclined into a flat bed (mine broke and only went back so far), all kids of lights and gadgets. Truly fun.

We had champagne to start and then chose the Japanese food. Closer to landing we had yet another meal. I actually chose pizza—mediocre but Phil had a cold scallop salad.

In Tokyo we hung out in the Admiral’s club and I posted to Facebook. We certainly didn’t eat anything. Phil like the mock ups of food at the airport restaurant.

I slept well on the 4 hour flight to Hong Kong even though this time we were in business class and the seats didn’t recline all the way. I didn’t even wake up to see what the food or wine was.

We were really tired when we got to Hong Kong. Cleared immigration and customs and found where to get the shuttle to the hotel, Novotel Citygate. Our room was on the business class floor but the clerk was quick to point out that it didn’t include the amenities of that floor. When we began to unpack we were uset to find many of our items and both our bags soaking wet. It was raining when wpe left Dallas and the bags must have sat in puddles. We rigged up a clothes line and totally destroyed the ambiance of the elegant hotel room.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

SIGCSE Board Meeting

I looked at a map and organized the SIGCSE Board meeting that would involve the least amount of travel for the folks involved. We met in Newark, NJ, near the airport. Being thrifty, I also found an inexpensive hotel (not all were pleased with my choice).

We did have a good meeting, though and found time to eat some super food. I even got to watch a bit of the OU-Texas game during lunch.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Drought ending rain? Sept. 12, 2009

It has been raining for the last couple of days. We were watching the UT-Wyoming football game. At the half we noticed that the river had reached flood stage.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last night at the Cabin Summer 2009

After Susannah's birthday we drove to the cabin after a weekend in Carver, Ma for Old Home Day. Phil has been at the cabin the whole time since, but I went to California from Sunday August 9 until the red eye on the 11th getting me to Gwyneth's on the 12th and then a 2 hour drive to the 12th. The weather is perfect and both of us and Suze's cats love it. We both enjoy hiking and geocaching.

Monday, July 20, 2009

France 2009 July 19 Vorey to Roissy

I slept like a log. It was quite chilly and my little alcove was great. We had breakfast at the hotel. Service was less than perfect, and the milk was curdled, but it was a lovely setting and we enjoyed ourselves. We walked across the little bridge where there the weekly market selling everything from cheese, chicken, mattresses and crocs. Chloe and Camille both got Crocs which we discovered smelled so chemically that we all started getting sick. Quickly the crocs went into the trunk in a plastic bag.

The scenery all the way to the superhighway at Clermont was fantastic. Lots of perched fortresses (especially liked the view of Polignac, chateaux, and panoramic views.

The highway drive soon became quite monotonous and seemed to take forever, although there wasn't too much traffic. We figure there must be a restriction on semi trucks on Sundays – there were none! We had a picnic at a rest stop that had a bouncy tent.

We arrived at the airport with our rental car driving on a very empty gas tank which we filled before returning. We had tried to get gas earlier but they were out of gasole (diesel). Traffic through Paris wasn't awful.

The bus driver to the hotel didn't help us at all with out bags but we managed. We looked out our window and saw a lovely church, cemetery and park so we decided to walk to the town. There was a path with lots of flowers and posters about beautiful places in France. While Gwyneth watched the children play in a playground, I went to a convenience store and got wine, cheese and waffle chips. We had snacks in the room before Gwyneth took the kids to the pool. I repacked my bags for the flight and ordered room service for us all. When they got back from the pool (which was gorgeous – it had colored lights which cycled from green to purple and clear) Harry Potter I was on TV in French and we ate and watched. Gwyneth and I shared a risotto and the girls shared pasta.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

France July 2009 July 18 Nice to Vorey

Very long day for me – I woke up about 3:30 and got up at 4:30 to take Suze to the airport. It was very eerie to be out at that time; mostly kids who had been out all night. I left her off at the airport after she had checked that her flight was on the board, I tried to go home so I could park at the apartment, but got incredibly lost. I have no idea where I was. I even went down a one way street the wrong way.

Back at the apartment we finished packing and cleaning. I had know idea how to check out, so I called the management folks—got no one and finally called the owners in England. I went for the car and was easily able to park out front and load. Gwyneth sent me to the bakery for a last baguette for our lunch. We took off and drove a couple of hours before a windy lunch at a rest stop. Then the awful stop and go traffic started. It took us 6 hours to go about 125 kilometers. We bailed and crossed the Rhone River and went through the mountains to the hotel Gwyneth had reserved. Some of the route will be the Tour de France next week and the rest was thgou rugged mountains. Pine forests and rolling fields.

We stopped for gas at a local store and bought the Montelimar nougat and rustic bread.

The hotel Gwyneth booked is a gem at the confluence of the Loire and the Arzon Rivers. I took the girls for a walk and then they had a floating island meringue at the hotel cafe. The girls loved the room's massage chair. I loved the fact there were four beds, and I got one in a little alcove so it was like my own private room.

Friday, July 17, 2009

France 2009 July 17 Nice

Suze and I went to Cimiez on the bus. It is the rich part of town, up on a hill. First we went to the Matisse Museum (free entrance) a villa on the grounds of the Roman ruins. There was a good Rodin/Matisse exhibit. Each had taught the other his craft. Then we walked down to the Chagall museum, This one cost big bucks (9.50 each). It was a grey day, so a good choice of things to do. We took the bus back. Suze and I had sandwiches at the apartment. I bought the wrong book for Gwyneth at the museum, but I did buy a book mark I liked – turns out it was the paper cut out that is on the exit wall of the museum.. Gwyneth and the girls went to see Harry Potter in English and Suze and I went souvenir shopping. We walked a lot and it was hot and frustrating.

Back at the apartment Suze and I went to the beach. The sun was out for quite a while and we swam and then lay on the stony beach. Some guys caught two jelly fish in the water. We decided not to go back in the water. Wonder why?

Gwyneth and the kids came back from the movie and their pizza lunch just as Suze and I got back from the beach.

Suze and I went out to eat in old town. Took us a while for me to find a restaurant I liked. We shared a Nicoise appetizer and a bream fish main course. The waiter talked me out of adding polenta to the mix.

I bought bubbly and Suze bought cookies at the gourmet chocolate shop to celebrate her birthday with everyone before packing.

France 2009 July 16 Side trip to Eze

We all slept very late because our late return from Saint Tropez. Suze and I went to the market for fruit. When we got home we were ready for our bus trip. We carefully read the bus schedule and got to the bus station 20 minutes early for our venture to the perched village of Eze. However, the bus was 45 minutes late and the bus driver got out, locked the bus and walked away with his girlfriend. Another bus came about 15 minutes later, into a different, unannounced quai, so we were last on the bus. At least we all got seats and it was a gorgeous ride to the village.

We walked to the top and had a very leisurely lunch with lots of wine. Chloe loved her pesto pasta, shared with Gwyneth and Camille practiced using a spoon and fork to eat her tomato sauced pasta. I had an Italian salad and Suze had pizza. Suze and Gwyneth walked to the top through the cactus garden, but since I had been there before and it was very hot, I stayed behind while the girls had ice cream.

After we got home, I walked to the store and Suze took the girls to the beach. We all decided to go shopping late, but the stores were closed. Suze, Camille and I had dessert in the old town.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

France 2009 July 15 Saint Tropez

(Most of this is plagiarized from Gwyneth's blog.) We got going late in the morning. After a little breakfast, we headed to the car to drive to St. Tropez so Suze could see it. It took a couple of hours to get there by the highway. We found a nice parking lot in the center of town and got out to walk around. It was hot, hot and Gwyneth's leg was aching. We went down to the harbor where there were lots of great big yachts. A crowd was gathering for one big one that was docking. Some people there said it was the yacht of a famous designer that throws "products" to the crowds when he disembarks. We kept moving on, but it was hot, and there were more cars there than could fit. Some super fancy and others delivery and garbage trucks.

We walked back to the car to get the beach stuff and trekked down to the beach. We walked through the front door of a very opulent beach club, out onto the beach and then down to the beach to a sandy beach where the kids could play. We had some sodas at the little cafe (they were done serving lunch) and then the kids went swimming. I walked back to the car and moved it to the cafe from town, but the traffic was miserable. And it took us a very long time to get to Frejus, where we stopped at a Quick for dinner. The kids were thrilled. Gwyneth didn't like the hassle, especially of eating in the car!

From there, the drive was quite beautiful and there was very little traffic on the way. We went through the Esterel, Cannes and finally into Nice. At the apartment, we showered and fell into bed as it was quite late.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

France 2009 Bastille Day in Nice

I was out early geocaching. Found a cache on the Promenade about a mile and a half away. There was a lot of activity with workers setting up venues for the day's Bastille Day activities.

I stopped at a Patisserie on the way home for breakfast items. Everyone had eaten when I got back, but somehow the croissants and chocolate rolls disappeared anyway. Suze and I took the girls to the beach. It was crowded but not too bad. I was a little leery of the gypsy family who sat down a little to close to us, so we moved our stuff over.

Chloe had a meltdown after swimming over ice cream. Meanwhile we went to one of the few vendors left at the market for fruit and back to the apartment for lunch and Laurent's family wine we had bought in Vezelay. Suze and I took Camille to the viewpoint above the harbor. The walk to the elevator that we rode to the top was through the twisty streets of the old town; stairs back down and a walk through different old town streets.

Gwyneth met us outside the apartment to go to the parade which was just some military folks and a fireman's band and speeches. Boats came by for a salute as did some fighter jets overhead.

Back to the apartment for pizza, fruit and salad for most, and my choice of curried rabbit.

Traffic past the apartment was heavy with people heading to the beach. We went down for the fireworks which were super. The beach was packed with people and it was a mob getting back toward the apartment. We got snacks at a small store on the way back.

Monday, July 13, 2009

France 2009 July 13 Nice to Monaco and Back

Chloe and I began the day going to a bakery, and a park.

When everyone was up and dressed we walked the few blocks to the bus station and took a local bus to Monaco. The bus (only 1 euro each) was very crowded and Gwyneth's knee really hurt -- not a good plan when she had to stand.
Crankiness prevailed so G and I took the girls to a little playground near the Grimaldi Palace while Suze scouted out the tour train ticket possibilities. The walk to the train was lovely -- it went through the cliff side botanical gardens. Suze, the little girls and I took a quick side trip into the cathedral where Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier and where they are both buried.

Trolley Tour

The trolley tour was pretty good -- you could choose among about 10 languages to listen to the commentary.

After the tour we found a little Italian restaurant and ate inside. It was very humid out, and cloudy so the AC was welcome. I had a mixed platter of appetizers, the little girls shared pasta Alfredo, G had basil pasta and Suze had a white pizza. Camille had a very fancy ice cream dessert. A nice bottle of wine and 130 euros later we took another bus back along the coast. The first bus was full and the next almost so, but everyone got to sit for most of the ride.

Suze and I took Chloe to the grocery. Snacks were the evening meal. Later Suze and I took the girls to the beach. All but Camille had ice cream (she got licks of ours). After a short while on the beach, Camille and I returned to the apartment and Suze and Chloe spent a long time on the beach watching fireworks and in line skaters and then the crowds in Place Massena. See all photos

Sunday, July 12, 2009

France 2009 Nice July 12

We went to the market, which turns out to be just down the street a few blocks near the beach. We got tons of olives, fruit and salad stuff as well as sunflowers for the apartment. I made lunch and then we went to the beach to sun and swim. The girls got violet flavored ice cream in colored cones before heading back.
At the beach

Soon it was time to get Suze at the airport. Her plane was late, but it was rather fun waiting!


My Girls!

She dragged her duffel bag from the parking garage to the apartment. We relaxed a bit with olives, cheese, bread and wine and then I cooked pasta for supper. We walked to the beach and up through the lively Place Massena.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

France 2009 July 11 Uzes to Nice

Up early this time. Stopped for breakfast in Nimes whose center was quite dismal, but there were some pleasant spots near the coliseum. Girls had hot chocolate and we had coffee, The coliseum there is used for bullfights now. We picked up a few groceries just in case we got to Nice too late.
Arena for Bullfighting in Nimes

We had intended to sight see in Arles, but got into horrendous market day traffic. It seemed as though everyone, including the perstitent window washer men, had to point out to use that our front license plate was about to fall off. A rivet had come out and every time we stopped I had tried to make it stay straight. After about 20 people pointed this out to me -- "Je sais, merci!" I sulled off on a side street in a quiet commercial area and G and I tried to fix it with dental floss. I gave up and ask a man who had come out of an auto retpair place to help me. He went back to the garage got the proper tool and fixed it! (The whole conversation was in French!). So now Arles is no long the town where Van Gogh lived, but the town where I got my license plate fixed!

Traffic from then to past Marseilles was like going to Cape Cod on a Saturday. Stop and go, wrecks, etc. The last part was much better until we got almost to the parking garage and we got in traffic so slow that it took uys an hour to get about 5 blocks. We did find the parking garage we had reserved thanks to G's fabulous navigation skills. It is about a .6 mile walk to the apartment, much on the Massena walking street.

The apartment is fabulous! Huge, modern and bright. We went out in search of groceries and then out to get the lay of the land. All of a suddenit was very noisy. A gay pride parade like the one we had seen in DC, went by the cross street just up from the apartment!
Gay Pride Parade
View from Apartment!

I heated a risotto dinner and made pizza for G and the girls. After lots of nice wine, I slept wonderfully.

Friday, July 10, 2009

France July 10 Chambery to Uzes

Hotel Preverenches
Hotel Preverenches

We got a little later start than anticipated, but it was a cool, crisp morning.

It took us a long time to find a place for breakfast -- the typical French croissant and coffee for G and me and chocolate pastries for the girls.
Camille in Coliseum in Orange
Roman Theater at Orange

We never did see the snow capped alps because the clouds hung over the tops. The drive into Provence was pretty. We stopped in Orange to see a Roman coliseum that is still used for performances, and took the tour.

We ended up at Pont du Gard, a vast arched bridge where we had lunch and phoned hotels looking for a place to stay -- made a reservation at an expensive Best Western. The girls actually waded in the water while Gwyneth took photos up stream and I sat in the shade.
Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard

The Best Western Hotel was actually quite nice. The girls enjoyed the pool (and I also got in a bit). Gwyneth and I order wine poolside which was served with a dish a olives on the side. Then we ordered fries and hot chocolate for them and more wine for us. It was really nice!

Aftermath at Uzes
Aftermath at Uzes

Thursday, July 9, 2009

France 2009 Paris to Chambery

I got up in the middle of the night to rehang the clothes that didn't get dried in the bathroom washer/drier combo machine. Then up early to finish my diary and start cleaning up. Made a pot of coffee, took a shower and got ready to go. Gwyneth did the final kitchen clean while I cleaned the fridge.

The elevator is being refurbished, so we had to lug everything down to the RC (level O) from our 5th floor apartment. The rental agent did carry my bag which made life better. Gwyneth and I had decided to walk from out apartment to Place d'Italie where the Hertz rental car place was because we could avoid lugging out bags up and down the Metro stairs. That worked quite well. We got the car with little problem.

Stopped for sandwiches at a rest area and had more French fries ( I know -- pommes frites) than imaginable. We stopped at Vezelay-- a town Laurent told Gwyneth about. It is a world heritage site and worth. It is where the reputed relic of Mary Magdelene are enshrined. We bought a bottle (expensive!) of Laurent's family wine and a local wine as well. The kids had knock off ice cream dots.

We stopped at two playgrounds along the highway as well before wandering the area near Chambery looking for a place to stay. One of the parks had playground equipment all designed to look like different varieties of mushrooms!
We ended up next to alps in a quite lovely hotel, Hotel Pervenches outside Chambery, which is near Grenoble and not far from Geneva Switzerland.a few miles from town and went back to town for pizza, wine and salad.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

France 2009 Paris Day 7

I definitely used my alarm clock to get up after the cruise night! Went for baguette again, and was one of the few to get to the conference on time! Keynote was a VP of the university. I made a little thank you speech at the hand off to the next conference session and spent a lot of time talking to folks about conference and Board details.

Lunch and then back to the apartment for a little rest. I packed most of my stuff. Gwyneth and the kids had gone out touring to Cluny among other sites. Her leg bothered her more today. A ton of planes -- I mean maybe forty flew by, some guarding bigger planes. No idea what it was about.

I took the girls to the Museum of Natural History across the street. Chloe had a meltdown in the gift shop and I had her call Gwyneth for guidance on what she could buy. (She got a stuffed bat) and Camille got a French animal card game. I took them for ice cream on the corner and went to the patisserie to get a treat for Gwyneth and to the grocery for a few supplies.

Gwyneth and I tried to do a wash and didn't quite understand, so we ended up with soaking wet clothes strung all over and the windows open on a cold night to try to dry them!

France 2009 Paris Day 6

Chloe's birthday. (07-07) I went to the patisserie but it didn't open until 7:15 and it was only 7, so I walked to Rue Monge and bought both a baguette and a little chocolate meringue to serve as a cake. I d put the gifts with the cake on the table. Chloe wanted to open one, so she did before I left.

Sally Fincher was the opening keynote. Went to a couple of sessions and then lunch in the cafeteria. I had fish. Coffee on the patio which overlooks the Seine. Went to some talks and a panel then back to rest before the cruise.
Pretty Side of Museum of Natural History
Gwyneth and the girls came back from a busy day including the Le Jardin d'Acclimatation in Bois de Bologne and we had a quick little birthday party.

The buses arrived at the cruise area about 8:30 pm and we stood around until almost 10 before they even let us on the boat.
At night
Food was good, and the views spectacular. The cruise finished about midnight and by the time I got back to the apartment via the Metro it was after 1 am. See all pictures here

Monday, July 6, 2009

France Day 5 Paris and ITiCSE Conference

I was up early for the conference but Gwyneth got both girls up as well so they could get ready to go to Euro Disney which opens at 10 am. I got to my conference at about 8 after returning to the apartment about three times -- forgot my whatever including the umbrella since it was raining when I got outside.

The conference opening was in a room ill prepared for it being bright outside. The keynote was about a new take on Bloom's taxonomy and how the speaker used his own version of syllabus analysis to "prove" that computer science was at a higher level of cognitive processing than natural sciences and huge about higher than math. Hmmm.

Eric Roberts decided he wanted his interview now, so he came to the apartment and I interviewed him. I managed to record 2 hours and 20 minutes! An additional benefit of Eric's coming was that between us we figure out the trick to opening the three-way window in either direction.

Then we went to his hotel and got his wife Lauren to come along for lunch. We found a little Egyptian restaurant where we got falafel, a bean dish, hummus and tahini with salad and pita. It was quite good. We were the only customers in a restaurant complete with hookas.


Back to the conference for the last speakers of the day. I hurried out through the Jardin des Plantes to the store to get necessary supplies and dropped them off at the apartment before returning for the buffet reception of cold cuts and veggies. I left as the cheese course came out.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

France Day 4 Paris

I got up at sunrise (around 6 am) and the light was lovely. I processed pictures and email while I waited for the troops to arise. I went off to the ITiCSE venue and it was good to see there were no problems today but the entrance was weird because it was Sunday and the university was officially closed. Three entrances, three days, not bad!

Finally at about 11:30 we set off for a Camille day. She wanted to go to the coliseum and then the catacombs. The coliseum was a success -- taking us to a subway station quite close that we didn't know about plus its concomitant shopping and a wonderful pedestrian market on Rue Mouffard.

We took the metro -- two trains to Denfert-Rochambeau and found a lovely creperie for lunch. The place was a bit funky and the toilet seat was red with a polka dotted lid! Chloe didn't like the chevre on hers but everyone else was quite happy.

Burial church of Pascal
When we went to the catacombs entrance the lne was forever long and didn't move. After about 20 minutes we gave up and went back to the apartment for naps. I began to plan in earnest the walking tour I on the spur of the moment agreed to conduct for the conference attendees. Gwyneth the girls and I headed for the zoo across the street. I worked on my tour details and the others went around the zoo and came back for me. I did get to see the cape buffalo and a very interesting civet like animal, the binturong. The kids posed on the hippopotamus statue. They ftinished the zoo while I went off to lead my tour.

About 10+ people went. I showed them the Arenes du Lutece (the coliseum), the school from where the Jewish children were sent to the extermination camps, the place where Descartes lived, the Rue Mouffard shopping street, the burial place of Pascal at St. Etienne-du-Mont, the Pantheon, Luxembourg Gardens, Sorbonne, Cluny, Notre Dame (where I once again broke a Nikon camera beyond redemption), Hotel de Ville, Pascal's Tower, the Centre Pompidou (but the Stravinsky Fountain was in horrible repair, what a disappointment).

We all split up and I went back to the apartment where I made snacks, including the strawberry tarte I picked up at the patisserie I passed on the way home. Gwyneth and the kids watched TV while they prepared to go to Euro Disney tomorrow and I to my conference.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

France Day 3 Paris

I went to the venue to check on the procurement of printers for the working groups. With their addition and a few power strips, the folks were much happier.

Conference Venue -- me

I met my friends Harriet and Boots for a bit of geocaching and a visit to the newly remodeled L'Orangerie. Gwyneth and the girls had gone to La Viellete for serious playground time, and we met up with them for lunch in the Tuilieres at an Italian restaurant.

Ice Cream in the Tuilieres

After lunch Gwyneth, the girls and I walked (forever) to the Eiffel Tower and then took the RER back to first a grocery store and then the apartment. WE were going to go out to Versailles for fireworks, but we were relieved to find the tickets sold out. We were too tired to go.

After a snack, Camille and I headed back to the grocery to get birthday gifts for Chloe who is quick to tell you that her birthday is in three days! I cooked a pizza. It was after midnight when we went to bed.

See more pictures

Friday, July 3, 2009

France 2009 Day 2 France Miniature

I went out to a boulangerie and got a baguette for breakfast. Then I went to find the conference venue and see what problems there might be -- and there were quite a few!

On my return Gwyneth, the girls and I headed out by train (and bus) to France Miniature. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We walked through all the regions of France in three hours!
More France Miniature

Quite a whirlwind. In the middle of the walk we stopped for the girls to enjoy some of the park's amusement rides. See the video of Chloe and Camille on the zip line and bumper car rides

We took trams from near La Defense on the west side of Paris to Porte d'Italie where we met Gwyneth's co-worker, Kathleen. We proceeded to a Tuscan restaurant that we had frequented on previous trips where they all ate. I left them and joined my SIGCSE colleagues, John and Reyyan. We walked for seemingly hours until we agreed on a restaurant. Began the meal with a kir and had a lovely veal dish.

See more pictures

Thursday, July 2, 2009

France Day 1 Arrival in Paris

My plane was an hour late taking off from Chicago. This gave me a good bit of time to work on the oral history project. I had a good seat -- exit row aisle, so plenty of room and I could sleep. I got a free glass of wine (French Bordeaux) gratis because American Airlines was apologizing.

I didn't meet up with Gwyneth and the girls until 10:30 am when I was supposed have landed at 8:30. They landed at 7 am so they had quite a wait. Gwyneth had already purchased our tickets for the RER and Metro, so that was lovely. However, I managed to have two crises. When I was getting on the train at Charles DeGaulle Aeroport, I lost the $15 strap that I bought in Chicago to connect my bags. Then when I exited the turnstile to go to the Metro, I jammed my toenail on the bag, and my toe bled like crazy. I took off my sandal, wrapped my toe in tissue and put on socks and my Crocs. Thankfully Gwyneth was strong enough to carry both her bag and mine up the steps at the various train stations.

Our apartment is on the 5th floor -- there was an elevator (but no air conditioner). It is very hot (88 degrees). I was able to hook up my computer to the ethernet, but Gwyneth's MacAir can't use it and there doesn't seem to be wireless. She and the kids are ostensibly watching news on TV but they are all asleep.

The apartment really does overlook the Jardin des Plantes. In fact, the natural history museum is literally across the street.

View a slide show.

I tried to nap, but there was a lot of commotion outside -- a multitude of people from Comores were going to the mosque across the street from the apartment building. There was a memorial service for the people killed in an airplane crash. Gwyneth and the girls and I went out to see -- and ended up being swept up in the crowd and seeing Sarkozy's motorcade when he came to address the gathering.

We got some bread, cheese, wine and milk and had a snack before venturing out along the Seine where there were a lot of end of term parties.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hiking in the Mountains -- Spring 2009 Bear Creek

Today's walk in the woods involved a drive west of Ellijay, Georgia to a remote forest service road and campground. We combined directions from Tim Homan's Hiking Trails of North Georgia with bits from and a bike shop map.

We met no one on the 3.3 mile loop with a 300 foot altitude gain. We crossed the creek several times. There were lovely hemlocks and rushing water sounds as the trail followed the creek. The cache was near the Gennett Poplar, said to be the second largest tree in North Georgia, over 18 feet around and 100 feet tall. Local history according to the sign says that the landholders, the Gennett brothers saved the tree from logging during the Great Depression. Phil is totally dwarfed by the tree.

When the trail turned away from the creek, it went up to an old road bed in which these blue flowers were growing in the center and on the sides of the tire tracks.


For Phil, the only bad part of the trek was the final crossing of the creek to the car -- we had to take off our shoes.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hiking in the Mountains -- Spring 2009 Cherohala Skyway

One of the things Phil and I enjoy most about being at our cabin in North Georgia is being able to take walks in the woods. Since buying the cabin, I have dealt with problems that prevented my taking long walks -- first an arthritic hip that finally was replaced and then a pesky stress fracture in my foot that took nearly two years to heal. Now that I can walk comfortably again we are combining our hobbies of geocaching, bird watching and wildflower identification once again with physical conditioning.

Cherohala Skyway North Carolina to Tennessee, May 30

1. Spirit Ridge Accessible Trail .7 mi RT
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Rhododendron Phil at Overlook
Teeth of the Lion

2. Huckleberry Knob -- Geocaching and Hike 2.61 miles

Phil heads off the end of the world
This trail, an old road, took us up 300 ft. to 5500 ft -- we were higher than Denver. Two lumberjacks in 1899 are remembered here on top where they froze after too much whiskey.
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View from the top
3. Mud Gap Trialhead .7
We chose to walk a bit here because it included a little bit of the new addition to the Benton MacKaye Trail.
In keeping with our gruesome meanderings, we stopped at a memorial to a"an unknown man killed by the Kirkland Bushwackers."

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hiking in the Mountains -- Spring 2009 Bear Hair Gap Trail

Another day that threatened rain, but Phil picked a trail that looked easy in Vogel Park south of Blairsville, GA. What was supposed to be a 3 mile hike turned out to be 5.2 from the car and about 700 feet change in elevation. I'll admit we took a short nature trail loop as well.
The views were fantastic from the overlook at the top where we had no trouble locating a geocache that had somewhat disguised coordinates. Coming down afforded some real challenges to balance that Chloe would have had not problem with. We had to cross the creek several times on logs.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hiking in the Mountains -- Spring 2009 Big Cedar

Trail head at Woody Gap in Suches, GA.

Bear alert
We used The Best of the Appalachian Trail Day Hikes book to find a 2 mile round trip hike on the AT from Woody Gap to Big Cedar Mountain, an elevation change of 600 feet. There were tons of flame azalea lining the route.
Trailhead on AT to Big Cedar Mountain

Flame Azalea
It threatened rain the whole while, but we did get some spectacular views from the top of Big Cedar.
We also met four through hikers 3 with Wizard of OZ names and Papa G, a CPA from Montana.
Arrowwood Flower

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Baby Wrens

Carolina Wren Babies in Hanging Basket on our back deck

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Water Heater Disaster

We are pretty much holed up in our bedroom or the porch given the noise from the fans and dehumidifiers that are being used to dry up the water from the water heater having broken in the attic on April 20th. The ServiceMaster technician says the tiles on the floor are still wet.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Day 2009


Originally uploaded by owensbtx
Phil and I hiked along Coker Creek in Tennessee and saw amazing ladder-like waterfalls and wildflowers.See more pics

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thursday, March 19, 2009

At the Cabin

We are enjoying Spring Break at the cabin. Yesterday we went looking for a geocache and drove over horrendous roads in the middle of the Cohutta Wilderness. We didn't find the cache we were seeking, but had some gorgeous 360 views.

Today we went in search of a geocache and a waterfall near where I had taken my granddaughters to visit a fish hatchery last week. We found the cache after a rather rough hike, but more importantly we found the real treasure (also the name of the cache), Little Rock Creek Falls.